ISLAMABAD: The government on Saturday said that they were exploring the option of restarting talks with the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to reach some kind of a settlement with Imran Khan.
The PTI too has expressed willingness to resume dialogue with the ruling PML-N, a process that was stalled after the Aug 30 violence against protesters on Constitution Avenue.
“We want dialogue. We have heard 213 speeches of Imran Khan, so Mr Khan should be able to spare 21 or 22 minutes for us,” Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid told reporters at the National Press Club on Saturday.
“Our hearts and the doors of negotiation are open. We will accord Mr Khan the utmost highest respect and embrace him [if he comes for talks],” he added.
The minister alleged that Imran Khan was not allowing PTI’s negotiating team to hold talks with the government. “Please, remove the handcuffs of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Shafqat Mehmood and Arif Alvi. Come and let us start talking,” he said, making overt gestures to soothe the PTI chairman, who has maintained that his sit-in will continue until the prime minister’s resignation.
Minister makes first overture in seven weeks; PTI expected to respond positively provided govt is ‘serious’
Talking to Dawn, PTI MNA Arif Alvi said his party was also ready for talks, but the invitation should come through proper channels, and not through statements to the media.
“Our doors are also open [to them], but talks should be held seriously and with responsibility,” Dr Alvi said, claiming that it was the government team that had abandoned the talks and never got back to them.
“If you want to invite us, call me or Mr Qureshi or any member of the PTI negotiating team,” was his indirect advice to the minister, indicating that the party was still awaiting a direct invitation from the ruling party.
Responding to the minister’s claim that Mr Khan had prevented PTI members from continuing talks, Dr Alvi said that the PTI negotiators had the same mandate which members of the government team had from their leadership.
The PTI leader said that just as government members could not make any commitment during the talks without seeking the consent of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, so it was for them as well.
On the contrary, Dr Alvi insisted, it seemed that the government team had no mandate at all. Moreover, he said, if the government team thought that PTI negotiators did not have any authority to speak on behalf of their party, why did they keep talking to them for over two weeks.
The PTI leader said that at the end of the last meeting, the head of the government team, Senator Ishaq Dar, had said that he would get back to the PTI after discussing certain points with the prime minister, but this did not happen.
This is the first time in seven weeks that the government has offered dialogue to the PTI, which has already issued a fresh call for a public rally in the federal capital on Nov 30 following the departure of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek from the sit-in outside parliament.
Another significant aspect of the development is the fact that the offer for talks has been made directly and not through the opposition jirga or any back channel.
The last time the two sides met was on Sept 8. The PTI formally announced that it was calling off talks with the government on Sept 12, in response to alleged police action against their party workers.
Published in Dawn, November 2nd , 2014